My quest to stay heart healthy began about 15 years ago in Southern California. One doctor said I had to exercise – cardiovascular exercise – at least 30 minutes, at least three times a week. Another physician said I could jog, but no more than three times a week, or I might get arthritis in my right leg, which was broken and still has 14 metal screws in it. The cardiologist tried to kill me on the treadmill, while telling me with a smile that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men and women of all
races and ethnic groups, and white men have the highest age-adjusted coronary heart disease death rate. And the dietitian told me to stop eating steaks and pork chops and a lot of other good stuff, or I might end up as one of the 85,000 Californians who die each year from cardiovascular disease.
These days, I'm living in Illinois. Recent statistics can be hard to find, but I was able to dig up a Centers for Disease Control 2009 National Vital Statistics Report that said more than 27,000 Illinois residents died from heart disease in 2006. That's a lot fewer than the 85,000 reported in California 15 years ago, but the Land of Lincoln is a lot smaller than the Golden State. Let's look at it another way. According to the CDC, more than one out of four deaths in Illinois are due to heart disease.
So, I shall continue jogging regularly to be sure I get plenty of cardiovascular exercise. Right now, however, I wish I was jogging along the beach in SoCal instead of slipping and sliding in the snow and ice here in the Prairie State.
The tougher challenge is controlling what I eat. I'm a chowhound. I really love food.
I only wish I could eat like I did when I was young. During 20 years working for Uncle Sam, he sent me to the best cuisine cities in the world. A couple of years assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Paris, where the people don't eat to live, but rather live to eat. More than three years with the recruiting service in Kansas City, the barbecue capital of America, where back then the Kansas City strips came directly from the stockyards to your plate after a hasty pass over the grill. Two years in New Orleans – properly pronounced either nawlins or newawleeahns – where all the military services headquartered their reserves and where all kinds of waterborne creatures tasted delicious.
Even Saigon had some great restaurants, and some of the best soups and sandwiches came from the carts of Saigon street vendors. Then there was Iwakuni, Japan, about 45 minutes from Hiroshima, where eating was a marvelous adventure everyday and, oh, so satisfying.
Now I'm told to watch out for those eggs and the more than 200 milligrams of cholesterol per yolk, push away that pepperoni pizza with the Italian pepperoni grease floating on top of all that cheese and the pound of wheat dough, and get back to more traditional dinners. Traditional except for the meat portion, that is. My plate must not hold more than three ounces of meat, while containing many more vegetables. And step away from that bread, wheat-belly man, or you might end up as one of the five people who die every hour in Illinois from heart disease, stoke or other cardiovascular disease,
according to the Heart Disease and Stroke in Illinois State Plan 2007-2012.
Whew! Listen, I enjoy those eggs. I could eat three every morning, over easy, quite easily. I crave that bread – and I'd kill for a pizza – but Dr. William Davis tells me in his book, "Wheat Belly," that modern wheat can contribute to not only my cute little wheat belly but also to heart disease. And now that three-ounce meat portion is supposed to be served up as fish or chicken breast most often, with fewer and fewer appearances by beef and that other white meat– right, pork. There go those slabs of greasy, sloppy spareribs.
Heart-health awareness takes center stage this time each year, because February is American Heart Month, sponsored by the American Heart Association. In it's latest webletter, reminding everyone of American Heart Month, the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System points out that 68 percent of men and 48 percent of women experience either a heart attack or sudden death as their first sign of heart disease. Holy cardiovascular exercise!
I guess I better go slip on my jogging shoes and hit the road, or hit whatever road is free of ice today. Maybe I can work out some of my underfed frustration. Unfortunately, it also works up a heck of an appetite!